Weightlifting: Powerlifter Ali Jawad has eyes on the prize in Rio

Ali Jawad.
Ali Jawad.
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World records are just the beginning for Ali Jawad with his sights set on gold at Rio 2016.

Less than one week on from the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Leeds powerlifter Jawad is aiming to break more records, which he hopes will power him to Paralympic gold.

Lebanese-born Jawad, 25, smashed his own world record of 190kg when he bench pressed 194kg in the lightweight power lifting event yet it was still not enough for Glasgow glory.

Structured differently from Olympic competition, competing in an open 72kg and under lightweight category rather than in his normal weight class, the points system worked in favour of Ali’s competitors which nullified his exceptional performance and a Commonwealth title.

Gold instead went to Paul Kehinde, Nigeria and Jawad told the YEP: “I knew going into it, that it would be virtually impossible for me to win.

“So I thought if you break the world record you can’t really do much better than that.

“I think everyone should see my bronze medal as a gold.

“I was the only person that day to break a world record so I feel like I put on a good show.”

Either way, the year 2014 has been the purple patch Jawad needed – adding Commonwealth bronze to the World Championship he won in April, breaking the world record on both occasions – after a tumultuous career until now.

Jawad has overcame health scares, injuries and heartbreak in Paralympic competition. Illness on the eve of the 2008 Paralympics stymied him the chance to compete in Beijing.

That illness would later be diagnosed as Crohn’s Disease, which he has been battling ever since. The combination of illness, depression and injury almost led Jawad to retire.

Heartbreak followed at London 2012 as a silver medal slipped away as a judge’s decision forced him off the podium into fourth place.

Seeking a change, Leeds provided the perfect settings for Ali to turn his career around,

“I realised for me to get to the top of my sport I had to sacrifice everything,” explained Jawad. “Leeds provided me the best opportunity and best environment to do that.”

Working with Leeds-based coach Tom Whitaker, he revamped his lifestyle allowing him to control his battle with Crohn’s.

After graduating from Leeds Met University, he stayed in Leeds and has now reached the pinnacle of his sport.

“My best successes have come when I have been based in Leeds,” admitted the powerlifter.

“Even though I’m not from there (Leeds) they have treated me so well, they’re so supportive and I’m proud to represent Leeds in international competition.”

Jawad’s efforts helped Leeds to a seriously impressive medal haul which outweighed the collective achievements of Jamaica no less.

And also among the medal heroes was Jawad’s weight-lifting team-mate Ben Watson who bagged bronze in the 105kg category.

Jawad beamed: “He demonstrated that if you can execute technique under serious pressure, which not many people were able to do, then you can give yourself the best chance.”

And Jawad will be hoping to do likewise in South America in two years’ time.

“For me the magic number has always been 200 kilo, that has won Paralympic Games in the past,” said Jawad.

“I would love to bench that in the next two years in the lead up to Rio. Hopefully that will give me the best chance of winning a gold medal.”

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